Gloucestershire-based tower crane company, Bennetts Cranes, is supporting a conservation campaign to bolster the breeding population of the UK’s largest bird, by sponsoring a habitat restoration project at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.
‘Cranes for Cranes’ is the name coined by Bennetts Cranes to represent their support for the conservation campaign, which is aimed at supporting the recently reintroduced population of common – or Eurasian – cranes, a bird that until around 10 years ago, had been extinct in the UK for 400 years.
Bennetts Cranes, a specialist UK tower crane company based in Sharpness, has agreed to sponsor the habitat project at WWT Slimbridge, where they are hoping to create the perfect breeding conditions for a small number of cranes who return to the centre to lay their eggs.
“This is a very exciting and inspiring project for us to be involved with,” said Edward Seager, Managing Director of Bennetts Cranes. “We’d been looking for a project we could get involved in that would be beneficial for our environment, and cranes seemed the perfect fit. It’s even better that we can see the work and get involved in this project at Slimbridge because it is only a few miles from our headquarters.
“Clearly, we work with a very different kind of crane here at Bennetts, but as the largest and arguably most majestic bird to spot in the UK, we felt there were synergies between the two. We are extremely proud to be supporting this project by WWT to secure the breeding population and increase crane numbers in the UK for future generations to enjoy.”
From 2010 to 2015 WWT Slimbridge participated in the unique and exciting Great Crane Project alongside the RSPB to bring back the crane from extinction, by hatching eggs taken from Europe and raising them at Slimbridge until they were ready to be released.
Over the period of five years WWT released 93 of the reared young cranes at a secret location in the Somerset Levels and Moors. Despite taking them to this ideal habitat, in the following years they discovered some of those cranes were returning to the reserve at Slimbridge.
They believe around 40 cranes have visited Slimbridge at different times. This habitat restoration project, sponsored by Bennetts, aims to improve breeding, feeding and roosting conditions and accessibility for six pairs of cranes (and a singleton) that currently consider the Slimbridge wild reserve a home.
This will include restoration and opening up a paleochannel and creating a complex of small islands where the cranes can lay their eggs.
WWT Slimbridge Reserve Manager, Dave Paynter said: “It was so exciting when the cranes that were reared here at Slimbridge and released onto the Somerset Levels chose to not just visit but to stay and attempt to breed here. We didn’t think that the habitat was quite what the cranes would be looking for but they had other ideas. Five pairs have attempted to breed over several years, so far only four young have been successfully fledged so improving the habitat is needed to give them a better chance of success.
“The generous offer from Bennett Cranes has come at the best time. Their support has allowed us to create new nesting islands and safe roosting sites, create a more open habitat (as cranes like to see disturbance coming), improve feeding areas and to remove barriers such as old stock fencing that prevent the cranes moving freely through the landscape.
“More work remains to be done over the next couple of years, but it is hoped that from 2021 we should see improved fledging success and hopefully an extra pair of cranes breeding on the site. Securing the spectacle of this iconic species for generations to come.”
A team volunteer day is planned for spring or summer, to help with habitat creation and island-building. A Cranes for Cranes campaign webpage, which will host updates on the habitat project, can be found at www.tower-crane.co.uk/cranes-for-cranes